GREENSBORO — City Council members seemed pleased with the results of their first satellite town hall Monday evening that drew a substantial audience to Barber Park.
About 100 people attended the gathering in the park’s event center, some of whom seized an opportunity to tell the council about issues that affect them personally — particularly residents of District 1, where the park is located in southeastern Greensboro.
Monday’s meeting was the first installment in an effort by the council to attract a more diverse range of public opinion during its first meeting each month, when the public-comment period is the main agenda item.
“I think it encouraged a more casual atmosphere,” Mayor Nancy Vaughan said Tuesday. “What I found is that people stayed around longer after the meeting. There was more conversation afterward.”
Council members had voiced concern earlier this year that the same people talking about the same issues dominated the podium each month at town hall meetings held downtown in council chambers at the Melvin Municipal Office Building.
Vaughan had suggested holding some of these first-of-the-month meetings in satellite locations throughout the city’s five election districts as a way to encourage comments from people who might feel more comfortable speaking in a more accessible, less formal neighborhood setting.
Some who spoke Monday were frequent speakers at prior meetings, directing their comments toward such recurring topics as alleged police corruption, the September 2018 death of Marcus Deon Smith in police custody and the city’s response to a lawsuit stemming from Smith’s death.
But others came to raise questions about traffic issues, police response to neighborhood crime, efforts to help women who are homeless and city government support for youth programs.
At the end of the meeting, Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy asked how many in the audience were attending their first council meeting and several dozen raised their hands.
Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson said she felt one speaker’s suggestion was especially apt — that the council begin issuing monthly progress reports on steps taken during that time toward completing major projects or achieving other large-scale community objectives.
Vaughan said Tuesday that much of the council’s concern about unruly behavior by some speakers at City Hall had subsided after officials began enforcing a “code of conduct” that led to repeat violators of decorum being escorted out meetings by security officers.
The council plans to hold its next town hall meeting on Aug. 5 in District 2, in the auditorium of Union Square Campus, 124 E. Gate City Blvd.
In its only legislative action during Monday’s meeting at Barber Park, the council passed a resolution marking July as city “Parks and Recreation Month” and recognizing the local program “for creating transformational recreation experiences that improve the quality of life and contribute to the economic vitality of Greensboro.”
The resolution noted that July has been “National Parks and Recreation Month” since 1985 and that the city has had its own parks department since 1933.